Chicago Antiques Guide

The Chicago Antiques Guide Blog

Harmony House Deco Waterfall Bedroom Pieces

Posted Thursday, January 12 by Brian

My aunt just recently passed, and we had to move her items out of her apartment this week. She had my mom's 5 dresser and vanity with mirror & seat. I knew I had to keep it. I've already cleaned the wood. I would like to know how to clean the handles on the dresser and vanity. Deco Drawer Pull.jpg
I remember when I was little that the metal parts were gold and there are 2 pieces (1 on ea. side) that look like a kind of tortise shell. The metal has turned dark, but looks like it can be cleaned, but with what? Now I am 47 years old, and I know this set is older than I am, so I would like to know what time period is it from. Don't know if it's worth anything, but that dosen't matter. The label inside a drawer says "Harmony House". Thanks - Jewell, Seattle, WA


Jewel, be very careful with the handles. The pieces you describe as looking like a kind of tortoise shell, are made of celluloid, an early form of plastic. They break very easily because they were never very strong to begin with, and they become brittle with age. The gold color you remember on the metal was either a plating or some other form of finish that was applied to the base metal. Although I'm certain you are right, that they could use a good cleaning, I doubt that cleaning them will restore the original appearance. Most likely some of the original plating or applied finish has chipped or worn off. That is very common on these pieces. I do not believe a metal polish will help, because it is unlikely that they are solid brass.

You can try Murphy's Oil Soap. It will not harm the wood, in fact it is an excellent wood cleaner. That is what I start with when cleaning old furniture. I only use stronger cleaners if I need them. I doubt that the Murphy's would hurt the celluloid, but I really don't know for sure. Honestly, if it were mine, I would try that and stop. You run the risk of doing more harm than good. It is not possible to replace the celluloid if it breaks. To the best of my knowledge, reproductions of this type of drawer pull are not available. If you decide to try anything harsher, make sure that you remove the handles before you start. You don't want to get the harsher cleaning chemicals on the wood or the celluloid. They unscrew from inside the drawer.

The style of your pieces is called Art Deco waterfall, which was popular from the late 1930's into the mid 1940's. Harmony House is a Sears brand that was first introduced in 1940, putting your pieces in the 1940's. It was not expensive furniture at the time, but intended for sale to Sears' core middle class market. The chest of drawers and vanity with the seat are worth about $400 to $500.

1 Comment | Leave a comment

Hello Brian,
I`ve got a similar dresser with metal plated handles (inherited form my grandmother). I`ve cleaned them with HG Hagesan Steel Aluminium Chrome Polish, it works very well!!

Greatz from holland

Leave a comment

Weblog Archives